Palm Sunday Sermon - Matthew 21:1-17
Jesus comes to you, not you to him. He comes to you bearing peace and victory in the form of salvation and life. He brings you hope for a future as yet unseen but fully fulfilled. He comes to you as one who humbled himself for the sole purpose of giving himself to you. You, his beloved children, cared for and led by one who incarnated himself into the flesh of humanity to be a conquering hero riding on a pot-bellied donkey. Those for whom he clears out the temple of all the things that get in the way; all the people, causes, distractions and burdens that we think are ours to overcome and conquer, he takes them and puts them away. The danger is, that what we see and hear of this Jesus is quite different than what we are given by either our preachers or the world.
Now I wonder if those words mean anything to us, to you. I wonder if being told that our King comes to us riding on the baby of a donkey – a tiny jackass – if that has any sway upon our hearts. I wonder if being told that our king, your Lord, the Sovereign Savior of the creation, the One who knows every star by name and yet knows yours like the back of his hand, has presented himself to us as an emptied, slave of a God who was obedient towards us in such a way that he allowed us to kill him because we hate the idea of forgiveness being free; I wonder what of that means anything to us in light of this first world that we live in that needs everything to be relevant. Everything to be cutting edge and trendy. Everything to be manufactured and helpful for some instantaneous life-change and comfort. The world that looks at the famine in the Sudan, the war in Syria, the bombing in St. Petersburg, the attacks this morning in Egypt, and creates a hashtag on Twitter or Facebook; and uses Jesus as a precursor to war or business deals that we think might change things. Forgetting that for 2000 years we have tried and failed. No matter how much muscle we flex, or importance we place on ourselves, people still kill each other or grasp at things we think we deserve, and starve to death while celebrities with four million dollar mansions tell us that only a dollar a day would change things.
I wonder if we are more comfortable with the money-changers and those who wish to sell us righteousness, than we are with the one who wants to clean house. I wonder if we prefer our children, and ourselves to be silent unless we actually rejoice at the entry of Christ into our midst. A Christ who comes to actualize the grace of God to you in a death for the unworthy and the unjust. This entry of the injustice of God being for one reason and one reason only – to save you.
Hosanna in the highest, we say. Hosanna, a word we say and sing so often. Almost every Sunday. A word that passes our lips prior to our reception of communion and yet we never think twice about. But it is a Hebrew word that gives to us that phrase – Save us and help us Lord. That is why we sing – Holy, Holy, Holy Lord. Lord God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. Each Sunday is a condensed Holy Week given to you by God. A reentry of Christ into Jerusalem each Sunday with Hosannas and cries of our hearts in pleads for mercy. A proclamation of this word of healing so we – the poor beggars and blind folk – may come into the now cleared out temple to receive healing at the hands of the Healer. An offering to you of the Table of the Lord in which we devour, chew up with our teeth and swallow the body and blood of Christ broken and bled for your salvation on that Good Friday – connecting Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in one brief moment that the Gospel might become tangible. A little Easter in which we proclaim to you the resurrection of the dead found in the victory of Jesus.
There it is. All laid out for you on a silver platter. The reason why this Palm Sunday exists. A reason why every Sunday exists. This moment in history in which Christ enters into the city of David as one welcomed by all. By those who see him coming as the conquering hero, as one who will overthrow the ruling powers and take over from the Romans. One who might lead a rebellion to sack the Roman garrison and depose Pilate as governor. One who might take over and rule the way we want things done – but then it all goes horribly wrong.
The same crowd who shouted Hosanna sees him upset their religious sensibilities by getting rid of the vending machine God. The God portrayed as one that must be appeased by your sacrifice, by a better you, by a better world, by a few doves, a pigeon, maybe a goat or two. The God who, if you do your thing with a few dead animals and a shedding of blood, then God has to be good to you, or bless you or love you more than say…your neighbor.
The same crowd sees no revolution come. They see nothing change amongst their lot in occupied territory and our chants of Hosanna change to Crucify Him.
The same crowd who may do what the leaders ask and shut our mouths, but then the lips of children cry out. Even the lips of the stones, as we find in this same account in Luke 19, the very stones that are used to build up our lives, our homes, our power, will cry out. Even if we stop, someone else, or something else will make known the greatness of this Jesus who comes to you humble and riding on such a silly looking animal like a donkey. Maybe your children. Your spouse. Your pets. Your house. Things who see this Jesus coming and giving of himself to you, and will cry out until you listen.
The same crowd who wouldn’t possibly think that this Jesus of Nazareth, God in human-flesh, has come for our salvation that doesn’t necessarily punch your ticket to Heaven, but shouts to you from the mountain tops – You are free! Freed through free forgiveness.
The same crowd who looks at the world around us and thinks, I am worthless, I am nothing. No one would miss me or love me. I am going to forever be alone. Allowing the loneliness of sin, death and the devil to conquer and destroy. To separate us from God, from Christ, from one another. But Christ says through his cross, through his body and blood broken and shed, through his life and death and resurrection – YOU ARE WORTH IT TO ME! YOUR WORTH IS ME!
The same crowd who thinks that how the world works around us is what defines us. But then enter Christ – one who emptied himself, purged himself of any version of God we might hold, and became that slave to define you by a God who doesn’t need to be served, but serves.
In four days, thirteen of our wonderful young people, ranging from 1st to 6th grade shall finally approach this table and receive the gift God gives to us of forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation, as the catechism says. They will reach out their hands and I shall place a piece of bread there and say to them – The body of Christ given for you. I will take the cup and pour out for them – the blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of your sin. All of them, the next generation of feasters on this Jesus who means more than a front row seat tin the clouds. One who defines you by different terms and gives to you the keys of a Kingdom that works in the exact opposite way we think it should.
Paul lays it out for us, I’ve already said it twice, telling us that we are told of this Lord Jesus Christ, one of the first confessions of the church, and he is called one who destroyed any view we might have of a God-like figure and tells to us – you want to see God? Look to the one who took the cross, who became a slave to death and sin for your sake – that is a Lord. Not one with a crown and royal robes whom you have to seek an audience with as though he’s some celebrity. But a God who comes to you and gives you often a silly thing like eternal forgiveness. Think of what this freedom and forgiveness makes real for you these days. What is it for you? Because it is for you. All of it. Even if you don’t believe it, or think you need it, Christ stands, arms open wide, to tell you of freedom and victory over and over again.
Happy Holy Week to you. Today we put down the palms. Thursday we take up the bread and wine. Friday we cradle the cross. Saturday we pray. Sunday? That’s the victory day. The day in which we remember that you have been made a new creation through this dying and rising Jesus. Your Jesus. Thanks be to God. Amen